On Monday, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) announced a $23.2 million public awareness campaign aimed at preventing substance use disorders and helping Texans access necessary treatment and services. The campaign is expected to reach about 2.5 million people across the state while focusing on reducing stigma, building community connection and resilience, and changing social norms, in order to prevent substance use.
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HHSC cited a 2020 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration survey estimating that 11.3 million people in Texas were living with a substance use disorder.
HHSC told State of Reform that this campaign would focus on addressing the external factors that may influence an individual to use substances.
“We know that substance use is not just about an individual choice; it can be impacted by many factors including ongoing environmental and family stressors and decreased connection to others as a result of the pandemic,” they said. “By focusing our efforts at a community level, we can help our fellow Texans by directly addressing those larger factors that might lead someone to turn to substances to cope.”
HHSC received $252.8 million in 2021 in federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant supplemental funds to finance the project and other similar projects. HHSC said additional funding related to COVID-19 has allowed them to increase the budget and reach for substance use prevention campaigns across the state.
HHSC awarded a $16.7 million contract for this campaign to FleishmanHillard, who will focus on reaching youth, young adults, and families in Texas who are most at risk, as well as community leaders who can best reach those communities.
Another $6.5 million contract was awarded to The University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Health Communication to develop an interactive digital tool to improve the referral process to existing substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services. The tool will provide personalized recommendations to help people identify resources that best match their needs.
HHSC said their goals are to provide Texas youth, young adults, parents, and guardians with resources to cope successfully with trauma, stress, and anxiety in order to reduce the rate of substance use disorders that usually spike under such adverse circumstances.
“We hope to inform community leaders across the state about risk and protective factors that lead to substance use disorders and behavioral health issues so they can make informed decisions to support their community’s health and wellness,” they stated.
HHSC said they’ve taken feedback from surveys and focus groups conducted across the state, focusing on the factors that shape substance use, how effective current prevention efforts are in meeting their community’s needs, and how HHSC can more effectively reach populations that are more at-risk for adverse health outcomes.
HHSC noted that the campaign is still in development and roll out will take place in the coming months.